“The novelty of my job wore off; I realised that there wasn't much to love beneath the glitter.”
What work were you doing previously?
I worked as a strategist in a variety of advertising and marketing companies, both in the UK and abroad.
What are you doing now?
I am currently a trainee maths teacher on the School Direct programme at the Ark Academy, Wembley.
Why did you change?
There was an intellectual challenge and a certain glamour to my job – all long lunches and fancy bars – but after a while the novelty wore off and I realised that there wasn't much to love beneath the glitter. I began to find it very difficult to motivate myself and this was when I knew I had to do something different.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
In a three-hour meeting about yoghurts.
Are you happy with the change?
Absolutely. I'm four months in to my teacher training and working harder than I've ever worked before and for less money, but I know I have made the right decision for me.
I gave up a corporate city job for stroppy teenagers, much longer hours and a much-diminished pay check, but I haven't regretted it once. The workload is huge and the pace frenetic, but every day brings at least one moment to cherish. And that's not something I could say about any job I've had before.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss the decent coffee and the freedom to manage my own schedule, but not the hours spent nudging boxes around a powerpoint slide.
How did you go about making the shift?
I took a month off work and spent time observing lessons in three schools. I wanted to make sure it was definitely for me, before I committed. It was time well spent as I now work at Ark Academy, one of the schools I first visited.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
I definitely kept a tighter grip on the purse-strings once I knew I'd be making the move, but I'm lucky in that on the School Direct program you can be paid a salary whilst you train to teach. That softened the blow.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
There are a wide variety of teaching routes to choose from, between PGCEs, Teach First, School Direct programs and SCITTs, so it took some time to choose what was best for me. As I was changing career I didn't want to take any chances, but there is an element of luck to teacher training because schools vary so much. I feel very lucky to have stumbled across one that I really like.
What help did you get?
I sought advice from teacher friends, who helped set me up with placements. A lot of it was emailing schools out of the blue, though.
What have you learnt in the process?
I've learnt that every school is different and it's really important to try to find one where you like the ethos, and where the leadership team is supportive. I'm very fortunate in that my school places a huge emphasis on professional development and there is a very constructive attitude towards mutual observation and feedback.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
Not really, because things have worked out so well. It wasn't that I had a master plan, I just did a lot of research and emailed a few people
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Spend as much time as you can in schools, observing lessons. It will help you decide if teaching is right for you, and what kind of school you might like to work in. When you are emailing schools for experience, it can feel like you are putting a burden on them but more and more it seems like schools are looking to meet enthusiastic potential new teachers. If you send a good email and you are well qualified, the best schools are likely to invite you in for a couple of days.
What resources would you recommend to others?
The DfE have almost anything you could want on their website, but these days it is also worth looking at the websites for the bigger academy chains. The momentum is definitely towards School Direct as the main route into teaching, and with more than half of all schools being academies these days, it is worth seeing what they are about. I wasn't sure about them before I entered teaching – and I think they do vary a lot – but I am very happy with my experience so far at Ark.
To find out more information about changing to a teaching career, visit Education.gov.uk/get-into-teaching
What lessons could you take from Tom's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.